Innovative solutions to fight food waste
Singapore is known as a food paradise, a melting pot of the best that western and eastern cuisines have to offer. A less savoury fact about food in Singapore is that food waste is one of the biggest waste streams in the country, making up over 10 percent of all waste produced here.
Singaporeans have also grown more wasteful, with the amount of food waste generated increasing by about 20 percent over the last 10 years.
Such wasteful habits have a high impact on the food security of Singapore, which imports over 90 percent of its food supply. In addition, resources such as incinerators and landfill are used to process food waste, resulting in a higher carbon footprint.
To tackle this issue, the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment introduced the Year Towards Zero Waste campaign in 2019 to encourage Singaporeans to adopt practices that minimise the amount of food they throw away. Since then, many initiatives have been launched to address the problem.
Here are some of the innovative solutions leveraging technology and the principles of redistribution, upcycling, and reduction, to reduce food waste.
Redistribution – cleaning out the buffet with Treatsure
Buffets have long been a dining favourite here, but also a big source of food waste. Local Startup Treatsure is trying to change that by enabling consumers to purchase leftover buffet food for as little as $10. The Treatsure app shows users where buffets are about to end at partners such as the Grand Hyatt Hotel and Hotel Jen.
If one of the locations catches your fancy, head down and make payment through the Treatsure app. You’ll receive a Treatsure box that you can fill at the buffet line.
Redistribution – Food rescuers to the rescue
The concept of food rescuing revolves around collecting surplus food before they’re thrown away and redistributing them.
There are several food rescue groups in Singapore that you can be a part of. For instance, the Little India Veggie Collection runs twice a week. Volunteers approach shopkeepers for their unsellable vegetables that would otherwise be thrown away. These are distributed among the food rescuers for their own consumption.
Another group in Sengkang collects unsold excess food – including fruits, vegetables, and bread – islandwide to give to the community.
Upcycling – food waste to anti-bacterial material
Technology now allows us to upcycle, or repurpose, food waste into other useful products.
One example of this is the work done by the Food Science and Technology Programme at Nanyang Technological University to transform cashew waste into a long lasting antibacterial material that is effective against 99 per cent of viruses and bacteria, including the virus that causes COVID-19.
The antimicrobial compound has also been incorporated in surface disinfectants and sanitisers available in supermarkets. Anti-bacterial face masks that all households in Singapore received during the pandemic also used the same material.
Previously, the same team developed an environmentally friendly cling wrap made out of chitosan, which is primarily derived from shellfish.
Upcycling – farming insects using food waste
Flies are commonly seen as pests, but Insectta – the first urban insect farm in Singapore – raises flies, the black soldier fly specifically, for a variety of uses.
The farm gathers food waste from landfills, beer breweries, and grocery stores. The flies that are bred can be made into valuable biomaterials such as chitosan, which has pharmaceutical and cosmetic applications.
Other products from the farm include black soldier fly larvae, which can be used as pet feed, and organic black soldier fly fertiliser for plants.
Upcycling – brewing up a second life for food waste
Want to do some good while having a drink? Then the products of Crust Group are just the thing for you.
Founded in 2019, the social enterprise sells beers and non-alcoholic beverages made from surplus bread and other ingredients. Some of the products include Kaya Toast Stout and naturally-essenced sparkling fruit water made from fruit waste.
The Crust Group works with restaurants, hotels, and food retail outlets such as RedMart, Tiong Bahru Bakery, SaladStop, and Bettr Barista to get surplus and waste products.
Upcycling – using up every bit of fruit
Singapore incinerates about 20,000 tonnes of fruit waste every year. Much of this is generated by the fruit juicing industry, which uses just 50 per cent of fruits while disposing of the rest as unwanted by-products such as fruit peels and pulp.
UglyGood harvests fruit waste and transforms it into raw materials for new products. Some of these include feed for livestock, natural cleaning solutions, and essential oils.
Reduction – optimising food use through big data
We’ve heard a lot about the impact of big data and it’s making a difference in the fight against food waste as well.
A company called Lumitics is working with commercial kitchens to reduce their food waste, cost, and environmental footprint through data analytics and business intelligence.
Using a combination of image recognition, artificial intelligence, and data analytics, Lumitics provides insights into what is being thrown away by the kitchens.
Armed with that knowledge, the kitchen management is then able to make adjustments and optimise their kitchen practices to minimise wastage and costs.
Everyone can do their part
As consumers of food, we can do our part as well to reduce wastage. Simple steps, such as planning our grocery runs properly so that we don’t end up buying too much food that we can’t finish, go a long way.
Many of us are also picky about the food we buy, choosing only the most pristine fruits and vegetables and avoiding those with the slightest blemish even though they are still entirely edible.
Technology may be having a big impact on the fight against food waste, but human action is still essential to turning the tide.https://www.tech.gov.sg/media/technews/innovative-solutions-to-fight-food-waste